How Rotten Schools Can Become a National Security Issue

 

brussel airport
Staff members at Brussels airport and rescuers stand outside the terminal for a ceremony March 23, 2016. (REUTERS/Geert Vanden… © POOL New / Reuters)

 

Once again, the heart of Europe is under attack by religious extremist; by terrorists; by citizens. It was not a matter of if, but when. Europe, along with its allies, is fighting what seems to be an impossible war against ISIS. Some argue for a full military intervention, some argue for diplomacy. Some argue higher security, some argue that our lives should go on as usual and let the terrorists know they will not win by attacking our democracies and values.

What is different this time, is that it is the same cell in which carried out the Paris bombings that attacked Brussels. How can a cell; hunted for months by Belgian and French police, still be able to carry this out? Even after, only four days prior, the man behind the Paris bombings, Salah Abdesalam, was captured? The Belgian police will have a lot to answer for in the coming days.

The Norwegian correspondent Frank Rossavik writes about parallel communities that exists in more or less every country. There are known areas in nearly every big city around Europe with communities living completely separate from the rest. No-go areas, where police literally (unofficially) have no power, areas controlled by it’s own “juristically systems” and their own interpretations of right and wrong, have existed for decades. This is not an Islamic issue alone, far from it, but it is a great problem authorities need to take seriously and start figuring out as it is in environments like these extremism and negative attitudes can be nurtured and continued.

Nevertheless, it is not only in these environments we see terrorist cells pop up and kids being recruited. There is no formula for who can or will be recruited; we see middleclass teenagers from the West leave their friends and families, without any strong religious beliefs prior to the joining of ISIS. There are the people from the no-go areas, and then there are young adults from poor, rural areas, where their only option is join – or get killed. Many people, especially in Syria today, only join ISIS because they earn a salary and thus can take care of their family.

The common denominator for all the groups of recruits, no matter the background or social status, is based on two things; lack of opportunity and lack of education. Authorities need to acknowledge the link between, and the possibility it produces, a better education system and national security. A system where schools in low-income areas are being prioritized, where as much attention are given upgrading schools, the education level, and last but not least; social services at the schools in all parts of the society, will have enormous benefits. Not only is this important on an individual level and for the country’s future when producing educated citizens; it also serves as a counter-violent extremism measure.

If children and youth have access to both good educational systems and schools that are not rotten and low-funded only because of the area they live in, as well as psychosocial security networks of advisors, optional vocational training, job- and application training, along with all sorts of other resources to make sure everyone are at their best, one will have come a long way in countering violent extremist behavior. Although we can never “save” everyone, this would be just as justifiable as spending years and years and trillions of dollars on military operations and traditional national security measures.

It is when people feel like they have no opportunities, are not being seen or heard, or feel like their religion is being stamped on, that it is easy to get caught in a web of lies, manipulation and false promises. This goes for the kid down the street you automatically think has the same possibilities and base as you do, as much as the poor people in war-torn countries deprived of everything. We need to make sure we invite everyone along the way to democracy, an open society and to share our inclusive values. We have to stop only saying that we do; we need to start doing it.

 

Kaja Wold is a first-year graduate student studying Development Management at

American University, School of International Service

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The Case for Black History Month

By Lester Asamoah

MLK memorial


Black History Month, like beauty, is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder. Stacey Dash’s recent comments reignited the debate as to whether Black History Month should exist or not. And Ms. Dash is not the only prominent black celebrity to speak out against the month. As we wade through another February, we are left with another year of questioning if a month “belongs” or not.

I would argue it belongs. You, the reader, are left to have your opinion. But the idea of having a month of history dedicated to African-Americans is not a bad thing. The first counterargument that should be immediately addressed is “why isn’t there a White History Month?” My question to counter is: what would we put in a White History Month? This isn’t a coy response. I would actually welcome a White History Month. But how would famous white people be honored in ways they already aren’t? More importantly, how would we assess the history and accomplishments of black people within the existing asymmetric power dynamics in America? The question isn’t, and has never been, how to leave white people out. Rather, it’s how to bring black people in.

There are three brief reasons behind keeping and appreciating Black History Month: Representation, Celebration, and History. Assessing the debate to keep Black History Month through these three lenses paints a little more of a picture as to why the month is important.

Representation

The question of “why isn’t there a White History month?” is a good starting point to point out why a Black History month is necessary. Representation. It’s not so much that black people haven’t invented things, broken records, or started major businesses. It’s that we don’t often hear about these people. Whereas, we are well-acquainted with what white people have contributed to history. Moreover, it’s that American society—in a time frame that is much closer that people realize—actively kept black people from inventing things, breaking records, and starting business. Black History Month really is a pittance compared to the cruel underdevelopment of black neighborhoods and individuals that previously took place.

Celebration

Despite the important acknowledgement of the terrible wrongs that were dealt to black people, there needs to be room for realizing the success of black people. Another common counter-argument against Black History Month is that a month is not enough. And that is true. But, as is commonly said, we don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The increasing limits that standardized testing places on American history and the subsequent lack of interest in black history—doubled with the recent crusade against anything that isn’t American exceptionalism—is a perfect storm for knowing shockingly little about the achievements of black people. Black History Month is a celebration, but a lot of people seem to take it as a “make white people guilty month.” I would argue it’s possible to celebrate the achievements of black men and women who have contributed to history in a purely positive way. It should go without saying that black people taking pride in something is not an attack on white people.

American History v. Black History

Another common discussion point when talking about Black History Month is that it’s American history. First and foremost, someone who is enslaved is not an American citizen. And the US Constitution counted black people as 3/5ths of a person, keep in mind. Black History, as it relates to American history, is really black people either being non-citizens or highly marginalized second-class citizens for what is the majority of the existence of America. All of that being noted, a unique discussion as to what it means/meant to be black in America is warranted.  It is a limited space to contemplate what black people have experienced in America and where the future lies. These conversations can, and really should be done in conjunction with white people. And people from all creeds and races, of course. There is a strange phenomenon in the American psyche that makes people deeply suspicious when black people have their own thing. But with an open ear and an open mind, there is a lot for everyone to discuss and learn. Black History is something that goes in tandem with American history, but the discussion must be honest.

This debate, like history, may repeat itself. But at least we’ve briefly covered a few arguments that make Black History Month important. Whether it should exist or not is contentious at times, but we can certainly derive positive lessons from it while it is around.

Lester Asamoah is a Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service.